Author Topic: To make a female look female...  (Read 7488 times)

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Offline LordFenrir

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To make a female look female...
« on: April 16, 2010, 08:13:19 pm »
So, fellow Furtopians, I come before you with a request for some advice on improving my artwork.

Well, not exactly the whole artwork, just the rendering of one character from The Shadow of the Dog Lord, the villainous vixen Loki.

You see, at least 85% of the people who comment on my pictures of her on dA and FA mistake her for being a male character.  Here is my latest attempt at illustrating her:



Now forget you know her gender and try to see it from a "first timer" point of view...what is this character's gender rom that standpoint?

When I look at it like that, I can very clearly tell she is female, mostly due to her "female curves" that you can vaguely perceive under her coat.

So, my question is simple: should she remain the same design wise, or is there something I can do to make her look more obviously feminine.  Note: I don't really want to change her costume to much, and I REALLY don't want to give her implants...she is meant to be rather petite, and having a pair of zeppelins on her chest would only encourage the inevitable application of Rule 34 to The Shadow of the Dog Lord.

Cheers, and thanks in advance for any help; it all is appreciated :)

LordFenrir

Offline Saril

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 08:53:54 pm »
Well, there are the standard conventions like giving female characters bigger, "cuter" eyes than male characters, needlessly revealing skin-tight outfits, and buffoonishly exaggerated body types...all of which you deserve congratulations for avoiding. She looks as capable and as mean as any male villain. I admit, without knowing the character's gender beforehand, and casually skimming over the picture, I would probably assume the character is male. Then I'd notice, "Wait, that's not a guy's chest...that's a girl. Cool."

That said, I suppose you could make her eyebrows a bit thinner, and her muzzle shorter and narrower. You could throw in some random male underlings of the same species in the background, to show the difference in height. IMHO, the dress doesn't really seem to fit with the look of the character, so you could give her a pair of pants--that way you could hint at the shape of her hips. And one last thing--maybe make the sword smaller? It doesn't look like one she could realistically wield.

Offline LordFenrir

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2010, 08:58:42 pm »
Ah, pants would help show her hips better...I just used the skirt because I thought, "Hey, girls wear skirts all the time" but didn't take into account everyone in a fantasy world wears robes or other skirt-like clothing :-[

As for her sword, it's very possible for her to weild...If I, a very weak-armed lad who is slightly shorter than Loki (who stands at about 5 foot six...average height of a wolf female is 6 feet tall in SotDL) and doesn't have the military training that she was provided can weild a bigger sword than that single handed, I have every bit of confidence that she can handle it ;)

Offline Kay Alett

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2010, 08:59:56 pm »
You can shorten her muzzle, give a littlle  more definition to her curves (frankly i see no curves at all of which to speak). You could also try bringing the skirt looking area of her outfit in more to hug her hips a bit closer. Frankly it looked like a piar of pants untill a really focused on the bottom. I'd also shorten her ears, they add to her height a lot and if she's supposed to be pettite then making her seem shorter will help.

But the main thing that makes me see her as a man is her muzzle. It's really long and broad and has an agressive look to it. While yes, women can be agressive, combined with the look and shape of the muzzle it just screams "male" to me. Even knowing her gender I still see a man.
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Offline Landrav

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2010, 09:40:29 pm »
Since I'm not an artist myself, maybe you should take this with a grain of salt...  First places I look for indication of gender in a drawing like this are chest (hey, you have to admit that most of the time you can tell at a glance!) and eyes.  Perhaps the eyebrow could lighten up just a bit, but maybe a more stylized corner of the eye could help, too.

Other things come to mind that could help:
Lips (not full-on lipstick smoocher, but more feminine as a visual cue)
Hair (though in fantasy-themed art this doesn't always work by itself)
Clothing that is more form-hugging (just saying, this is recognized as an indicator, not that this should be the style you're going for)

Dunno HOW you'd do all those things, but that's the list that comes to mind when I'm looking for indicators.  I am in agreement that having a male of the species to compare in the same picture would help a lot (even if he's not drawn at quite the same level of detail) if you think it would work.

**Oh, wait, is that a BOW in her hair?  Play it up!  Don't hide it in back.
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Offline LordFenrir

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2010, 09:46:07 pm »
Yep, that's a bow, but it's supposed to be like the ones worn by 16th and 17th Century British officers in the Royal Navy, which is the main inspiration for her design.

In the real-life picture, I did draw eyelashes on her, which is something I never do, but the scanner didn't pick up on these I don't think.

I think I'm going to try Kalo's suggestion, and make her muzzle thinner and ears slightly smaller (but due to her jackal father, she'd probably have taller jackal ears instead of short wolf ears).

Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2010, 09:57:10 pm »
I am an artist. Your character's muzzle is narrower toward the skull than the nose, which doesn't help (it doesn't need to be shortened, but tapering it to a point would help and her nose could be smaller); however, the biggest problem is entirely with the eyes.

Everyone has a different technique, but eyelashes and eyelids are crucial. Her eyelids don't show, and her eyelashes need to be prominent. Take a look at these two characters. They're not anthropomorphised very much, but there's no question as to which is the female.

The eyes are so telling, I knew the dragon in Shrek was going to turn out to be a girl before the big reveal. Her eyes are beautiful.

Offline Landrav

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2010, 10:03:30 pm »
Yeah, OHare, you have it right.  Also, you win a cookie for linking to that comic :)

LordFenrir, I didn't know a bow was part of that uniform.  I guess it makes sense to keep it unobtrusive then.
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Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2010, 10:31:32 pm »
Landrav: "...you win a cookie for linking to that comic"

Oooooo... What kind of cookie? Chocolate... anything with chocolate....

As for the body (cool clothes, incidentally) Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet is a study in how to cover a character with layers of clothing and still leave no question as to her gender.

Dang, that creature is yummy. Do I get a choice between her and the cookie? If so, I'll get my chocolate fix somewhere else. :D

Offline Saril

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2010, 10:43:49 pm »
Meh. I don't think she needs big doe eyes and batting eyelashes to look female. Especially if you're going to have her actually capable of wielding that sword. Looking at it again, it's not as huge as some ridiculous fantasy-art swords I've seen. I suppose she could use it. But you have to make sure it comes across in the art that she can use it and she means business.

No offense, O'Hare, but the two examples you gave are, in my opinion, counterproductive to designing a female villain that is to be taken seriously. I don't read that comic, but the vixen looks like a standard "fair maiden" love interest character; and the dragon in Shrek was a comic-relief side character in a comedy. They are meant to be cute and delicate (even if for laughs, in the case of the dragon).

I guess it depends on what sort of personality you have in mind for her, but judging from the pose, expression, sword, and...some sort of Necronomicon-type looking spellbook, I'd say she isn't the cute type. And anyway, having people on the Internet mistake her for a man isn't necessarily a problem. She doesn't have to be cute. She doesn't have to be alluring. She doesn't have to make everyone who views the picture go "Shawty's a ten!"

I didn't mean for this to turn into some kind of proto-feminist rant, but the portrayal of females in high fantasy usually brings out this ranting side of me.

Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2010, 10:45:28 pm »
Saril: "No offense, O'Hare, but the two examples you gave are, in my opinion, counterproductive to designing a female villain that is to be taken seriously."

It's not counterproductive if you want your audience to know the gender of the character.

Offline Saril

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2010, 10:57:42 pm »
Saril: "No offense, O'Hare, but the two examples you gave are, in my opinion, counterproductive to designing a female villain that is to be taken seriously."

It's not counterproductive if you want your audience to know the gender of the character.

There are ways to do that without turning her into a Disney princess. That's all I'm saying.

Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2010, 11:12:23 pm »
Saril: "There are ways to do that without turning her into a Disney princess."

Captain Amelia, whom I also cited, does not look like a Disney princess (even though she's Disney).

If you come up with one let me know, preferably with a link to an image as an example. LordFenrir asked why people mistook his character for a male. I answered him.

Offline Saril

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2010, 11:49:13 pm »
Saril: "There are ways to do that without turning her into a Disney princess."

Captain Amelia, whom I also cited, does not look like a Disney princess (even though she's Disney).

If you come up with one let me know, preferably with a link to an image as an example. LordFenrir asked why people mistook his character for a male. I answered him.

?

Everything that's already been said? We all agree her muzzle should be thinner. Other suggestions are thinner eyebrows, smaller ears, shorter muzzle, more definition of the hip area, longer hair. The "pretty eyes" thing (perpetually half-closed eyelids and emphasized eyelashes) isn't so much a physical indicator of being female (the way round hips and smaller body size are) as it is a stylized representation that the character is alluring, yet non-threatening. Specifically, the image of the vixen in the webcomic you linked reminds me of Maid Marian from Disney's Robin Hood:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v465/leonumtimor/maidmarian.jpg

Or of Vixey from The Fox and the Hound:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v465/leonumtimor/vixey.jpg

Both of whom are, as I said, "fair maiden" love interest characters. They have no significant part in the story, other than something pretty for the male character to fall in love with. The eyes on the Captain Amelia character look better than the other two, but come on--chicken-plucked eyebrows, eyeliner, and eye shadow? On an alien pirate captain? (I haven't seen the movie, so I apologize for my best guess as to her profession.) Why does she need that? It's an animated cartoon; surely we could tell from the voice that comes out of her mouth, or from the shape of her body under the clothes?

It's probably just a matter of taste. I like the way the eyes are drawn just the way they are, and don't think any change to them is necessary to indicate gender. I think more attention should be given to the shape of the skull and the body.

Edit: linked to Maid Marian twice. Hurr, I are smart.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2010, 11:51:50 pm by Saril »

Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2010, 12:20:24 am »
Saril: "I like the way the eyes are drawn just the way they are, and don't think any change to them is necessary to indicate gender."

They look masculine. Can you show me an image of a female anthro character that doesn't use stylized eyes as a cue to her gender?

I can't think of a single example.

Offline Arbutus

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2010, 12:31:30 am »
I have to tell you honestly, when I saw the picture, I was convinced I was looking at a male. Then I read your post and took another look, keeping an eye out for all the feminine features you pointed out... and I still thought it was a male. I guess the hips are there (although my eye interprets them as the sweep of a robe), but I don't see a chest, and like it or not, that's the single most prominent marker of femininity - due both to its width and its depth. You don't need zeppelins, rofl, but you do need at least a small amount of definition in that area. (I take it she's not trying to hide her femininity, is she? I could see that happening, for example, if she wants her subordinates to think she's a male to give her greater authority or something.)

Other people have already commented on the muzzle... it's not only angular, it's more aggressively angular than anything in nature, which seems like kind of an artistic trope for masculinity and is likely contributing to the male look. I actually think the haircut looks somewhat male as well... I very rarely see female haircuts that are combed to the front.

I fully agree with Saril that "doe-like eyes" would be a step too far, not only for this character, but in general considering your artistic style. Those stylized eyes with prominent eyelashes (do animals even have eyelashes like that? do humans?) have always struck me as artistic shorthand for "alluring sex object," and that seems to be completely the opposite of what you're shooting for with Loki.

Offline Saril

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2010, 12:37:03 am »
Saril: "I like the way the eyes are drawn just the way they are, and don't think any change to them is necessary to indicate gender."

They look masculine. Can you show me an image of a female anthro character that doesn't use stylized eyes as a cue to her gender?

I can't think of a single example.

Iono, they look gender-neutral to me. They're just cartoon eyes. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, either, but I think it's relevant to point out that a large portion of female anthro art is pin-up/cheesecake type art. I'm not saying eyes can't be used as a gender clue. I'm saying, if her body is clearly female, what does it matter if she has an open-eyed, aggressive, challenging, so-called masculine stare? I think it fits the concept of the character. Such as I know about it, judging from this single picture.

Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2010, 12:52:43 am »
Arbutus: "...do animals even have eyelashes like that?"

Llamas and emus do, definitely. And foxes always look like they're wearing eyeliner. Their eyes are so slanty and feminine, no wonder we call attractive people "foxes."

Arbutus: "...do humans?"

My ladyfriend does. Hers are outrageous! She has eyes like an anime character. I suspected her eyelashes were false until the first time we shared the shower. They're not fake. They're just... insane. They sure are beautiful, though.

Offline Landrav

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2010, 02:31:07 am »
OHare: Sorry, all I got is food around here, no ladies!  (Dang, that sounds pathetic instead of funny.)

"Big doe eyes" are definitely not what you want in this case, but I did find an example sheet from some website calling itself Manga University.

Female Eyes

A lot of the examples near the bottom of that page could be adapted to fit a less manga-y style.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 02:37:13 am by Landrav »
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Offline J. March OHare

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2010, 12:13:10 pm »
Landrav: "'Big doe eyes' are definitely not what you want in this case..."

You're right; they're not. I never meant to imply that he did. But there's a medium between The Little Mermaid and what LordFenrir drew.

I don't think anyone would ever mistake Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell for a male, but she's not doe-eyed.

Offline LordFenrir

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2010, 12:23:04 pm »
Well, I thank everyone for their advice!  I just finished drawing a tester face on a female character with thinner eyebrows, eyelashes (though I'm not sure if they're that noticeable) and a thinner and less boxy muzzle and I think she looks...well, like a she ;)

I'll post a pic when I get home to my scanner late tonight so you can be the judges :)

Cheers,
Fenrir

Offline Old Rabbit

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2010, 12:42:15 pm »
Generally females have softer features than males.  Thing that makes
this character a bit difficult is your wanting a agressive look.


I feel the muzzle is a bit too angular for a female. Usually a harsh angular look
fits a male character.  A bit shorter and tapered with a smaller nose would fit a female
look better.

Those shoulder ornaments square off the shoulders, which gives it a male look too.

Course in real  life the differences in gender arn't always obvious . So unless you really
want her gender to stand out. Things like eyelashes and large curves probably should be left
off.

I usually try to use a hairstyle to aid a female look. Also a bit of jewelry always helps too..
Perhaps some beads and a bit longer hair tied up or braided .

Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference.

Keep up the good work.

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« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 12:52:52 pm by Old Rabbit »
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Offline Kay Alett

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2010, 02:02:51 pm »
Do you follow the comic TwoKinds?

2kinds.com

The character Natani is a female who believes she is male and frequently disguises herself as a male, yet it's not difficult to really see her as a female. I think if you studied this character in a lot you may get some ideas.
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Offline Shim

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2010, 04:59:48 pm »
This isn't exactly advice, and I'm sure this wasn't intentional, but it looks like you've essentially drawn a canine anthro of Saber, from Fate/Stay Night

Offline LordFenrir

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Re: To make a female look female...
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2010, 01:34:37 am »
Hey, as promised, here is the drawing I was talking about earlier...let's see if there is a noticeable improvement in how feminine a female character looks (this is not Loki, it's just a test drawing):



Cheers,
LordFenrir